Jon S. Baird’s Apple+ movie about the journey of one man who went through a grueling process of acquiring the rights to a game from beyond the Iron Curtain to have it published for the entire world, called “Tetris,” has just premiered, and it’s a surprisingly accurate telling of the actual events. The story follows the CEO of Bullet-Proof Software, Henk Rogers’s (Taron Egerton) journey from being a small-time game publisher to being the joint owner of the most famous video game in the world. With multiple transactions and a lot of deals happening throughout the movie, it may get difficult to keep track, so here’s a detailed explanation of all the possible queries you might’ve had while enjoying this almost entirely accurate adaptation of a true story.
How Did Henk Find Out About Tetris?
In 1988, while trying to attract crowds to a game he had published, Henk Rogers comes across a game unlike anything he’d ever seen before, and he immediately realizes he needs to secure the rights to it. This was the eponymous “Tetris,” created by a Soviet Computer Science Center coder named Alexey Pajitnov, who had sold the rights to distribute it as a computer game to Robert Stein of Andromeda Software for $10,000 two years ago. Realizing this game will alter the future of gaming forever, Henk takes a $3 million loan from a banker and acquires the rights to produce PC games, arcade games, and consoles based on Tetris in Japan from a representative of Mirrorsoft, a company that had actually purchased it from Stein. To take this loan, however, Henk has to mortgage his home, but he tells his wife Akemi that it’ll be alright. Henk heads to Nintendo HQ and strikes a deal with CEO Yamauchi to provide 200,000 cartridges, and the Bullet-Proof Software CEO joins as a partner publisher.
What Brought Henk To Russia?
After learning that Mirrorsoft has struck a deal with Nintendo’s rival SEGA for the arcade rights in Japan, Henk is left with PC and console rights, so he requests Yamauchi for help. The Nintendo boss sends Henk to his partners in the Seattle headquarters of Nintendo, where he meets Minoru Arakawa and Howard Lincoln, and is one of the ten people in the world at that time to have witnessed a Game Boy for the first time ever. Henk asks them to produce the game with Tetris and promises it’ll break every possible sales record they’ve had.
When Henk visits London to meet Mirrorsoft to procure handheld rights to Tetris, he meets with the owner Robert Maxwell and his petulant son Kevin, who are in a meeting with Stein, demanding money to pay the royalties for the game to the Russians. When Henk tries offering a sum to purchase handheld rights, the senior Maxwell asks for time. Confused, Henk offers Stein $25,000 for the handheld rights, but the latter betrays Henk as well as the Maxwells and sells the handheld rights to Atari for $100,000. After cutting out Stein for his betrayal, Kevin Maxwell decides to handle the matter himself and talk to the Russians. Meanwhile, Henk also heads to Russia to personally procure the rights to handheld Tetris from ELORG, the organization Alexey was a part of, even though to do so he’d have to enter the Soviet Union during the Cold War when almost everything American was considered criminal on that side of the Iron Curtain.
However, once in Moscow, Henk was shocked to learn from Nikolai Belikov of ELORG that the Russian organization had sold only computer game rights to Stein and not console or arcade rights. Henk informs the Russian that Stein and Maxwell are selling illegal copies of Tetris at the moment and asks Belikov for a copy of the contract so he can show them how Stein cheated ELORG.
How Did Stein Cheat The Russians?
Henk discovered that Robert Stein bought the rights to publish Tetris on personal computers from the Russians but also started selling it on consoles because the Russian contract didn’t properly define what a computer was. Additionally, Stein personally allowed Tetris to be played in arcades, whereas Russia was never even aware of Tetris being made available in arcades. Henk points out Stein’s fraudulent activities to Belikov, and he decides to redefine computers and draw up a new contract.
Belikov made Stein sign a new contract where computers had been redefined in and Stein agreed in the hopes that Belikov would discuss selling handheld rights to Stein. However, the newly drawn contract made Stein and Mirrorsoft lose any claim to Tetris because computers had been redefined according to Russia. Henk already owned the rights to publish Tetris for PC and consoles, making only his contract the legitimate one. This ousted Mirrorsoft from any form of right to Tetris.
How Far Was The Soviet Union Corrupted?
Valentin Trifonov, a high-ranking official within the Soviet Union, didn’t care much about the egalitarian principles of communism and wanted a sweet deal for himself. He tried striking a deal with Kevin Maxwell and asked for a bribe to ensure Mirrorsoft received Tetris, but when the young CEO refused his offer, Trifonov contacted Robert Maxwell. The two strike a deal at the senior Maxwell’s house, where he wires Trifonov $400,000 in exchange for giving him the rights to the game, and Maxwell reminds the Russian that Kevin is not to be made aware of this deal.
With monetary interest on the line, Trifonov has his right-hand man Boris keep track of Henk’s movements while also threatening Alexey. After Henk is photographed heading to Alexey’s home, a few men show up at the Bullet-Proof Software HQ from the Russian embassy and threaten Akemi, asking her to ensure Henk returns home. In Moscow, Henk is beaten up by KGB agents, and his hotel room is ransacked; afterward, his translator Sasha arrives to offer him sympathy. She tries seducing him, but he rejects her advances, citing his marriage. Additionally, Alexey is threatened that he might face a similar fate as his father unless he stops helping Henk.
What Obstacles Do Henk And Alexey Face?
The US-based Nintendo heads strike a deal with Mirrorsoft upon being informed that they’ve secured a deal with the Soviet Union, and Henk is terminated from the deal. Henk had secretly signed a deal with Belikov where they agreed to sell the rights to Tetris, but they were photographed while the deal was finalized. This makes Belikov a target, and he’s pummeled by Boris on Valentin’s orders while Henk’s life is seemingly ruined. He realizes he’ll be bankrupt and will lose their home, while his wife and daughter are upset at him for shouting at them.
Belikov approaches Alexey and asks him to fax the letter of intent that Mirrorsoft had signed, and because it’s past expiry, the deal Mirrorsoft had struck with Nintendo is nullified. Alexey faxes the letter to Henk but is caught in the act. Meanwhile, Kevin finds his father and a few other men shredding papers, and the senior Maxwell cites some accounting issues that’ll be taken care of soon. He also assures his son that there’s nothing to worry about and that they have sufficient money.
Based on the letter that Henk received, he takes it to Howard and Minoru, who realize that Tetris isn’t legally owned by anyone outside the Soviet Union, but they can still secure its rights. The three men head back to Moscow to strike a proper deal with ELORG. Meanwhile, Valentin has Alexey thrown out of his home, and his family is consigned to a one-bedroom flat in some shady area with a final warning. When Henk and the Nintendo officials meet with Belkov, Henk is shocked to realize his translator Sasha is actually KGB. Nintendo offers ELORG $5 million upfront and $1 as royalties for every unit sold, but Sasha doesn’t let Belikov sign immediately and makes everyone wait for 24 hours so that she can take it up with Valentin.
While Valentin gives Maxwell 24 hours to provide $1 million for Tetris, Stein barges in and punches the bratty Kevin in the face before announcing that Mirrorsoft are thieves. The deal has been nullified, and nobody owns Tetris right now. Maxwell decides he’s going to personally acquire the rights to the game and heads to Moscow with his son to meet General Secretary Mikail Gorbachev, who’s apparently friends with Robert Maxwell.
‘Tetris’ Ending Explained: How Did Henk Finally Secure The Rights To The Game?
At ELORG, Maxwell tries forcing Belikov into signing a deal with Mirrorsoft, but instead of money, he’s offering an exchange deal. Henk, Howard, and Minoru barge in and offer Belikov their original deal, while Henk realizes Maxwell has no money to pay because they’re bankrupt. Belikov head-butts Robert Maxwell, signs the Nintendo deal, and asks the three men to get out of the Soviet Union. Valentin and Boris arrive at ELORG just then and meet Maxwell, and Valentin demands his bribe, which disillusions Sasha. Henk and the others are helped by Alexey, who drives them to the airport while the corrupt politician Valentin Trifonov and his KGB lackey pursue them. Elsewhere, Sasha runs to Gorbachev and exposes how corrupt Trifonov is, and he asks her to take action.
There’s an intense car chase scene, but Alexey manages to deliver Henk and the men to the airport, even though Trifonov catches up. Henk asks Alexey to escape but promises they’re not done. The three men get on a plane, but it seems that Trifonov has also boarded as he begins to search, only to realize he has boarded the wrong plane. As Henk’s plane takes off, Trifonov is arrested by Sasha for corruption.
Back home in Tokyo, Henk makes up with his wife and daughter, and he listens to his daughter perform after showing his wife the check signed to Bullet-Proof Software for $5 million. In the post-credits scene, Alexey receives a package from Henk that brings Alexey’s entire family to San Francisco, where the two men start the Tetris Company.
We also learn that it was Robert Maxwell’s stealing from the company that made Mirrorsoft go bankrupt, and after his mysterious death, his son Kevin was arrested but later acquitted. Robert Stein couldn’t get over the regret of not being able to own Tetris, the company that saw Maya Rogers succeed her father as CEO in 2014.